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Not enough breast milk

If your baby’s feeding behaviours aren’t what you expected, you may feel like you don’t have enough milk. This is hardly ever the case.

How to tell when baby is getting enough

You can tell that baby is satisfied and feeling full when baby:

  • Releases the nipple and can be moved away from the breast without being physically de-latched
  • Is relaxed
  • Looks very sleepy and contented and often extends their legs
  • Has what mothers describe as a ‘full look’
  • Has stopped giving feeding cues.

You may notice the sucking bursts getting shorter towards the end of the feed and probably the pauses becoming longer.

Babies who are getting enough breast milk will:

  • Start to have changing bowel motions by around day four of life (from the black and greenish first meconium bowel motions to either starting to turn yellow or yellow)
  • Have at least six wet nappies in 24 hours by day four of life
  • Be back to birth weight by 10–14 days after birth
  • Gain weight after regaining their birth weight – approx 120–240 g per week
  • Demonstrate multiple bursts of sucking during a feed, with swallowing sounds heard
  • Pass bowel motions three times or more in a 24 hour period until the age of around six weeks.
  • Be waking and cueing for feeds, alert, active and feeding vigorously.

Your breasts may feel softer after a breastfeed although some mothers do not always feel this change.

If there are concerns about baby's output (urine and bowel motions); weight gain; feeding responsiveness; or if the latch is still painful and nipples damaged, then a consultation to assess how breastfeeding is going is recommended.

If your milk supplies are low, there are things you can do – you should seek advice if you’re worried or unsure.

If you’re worried baby isn’t getting enough

  • Remember – babies normally have some breastfeeds close together (this is called clustering). They also breastfeed more often when they’re going through a growth spurt.
  • Sometimes they are fussy and unsettled but that’s just because they are new babies and going through normal newborn unsettled periods.

People may also tell you that your breast milk may not be ‘strong enough’ or ‘good enough’. This is never true. A mother’s breast milk will always be perfect for her baby.

It’s important for your health and well-being to eat a well balanced diet and drink lots of water. You should also try to avoid becoming overtired, stressed or unwell.

A lactating breast is never empty

The breast is always making milk, and the more the baby drinks, the faster it makes it. A baby sucking removes different amounts at most feeds but never removes all the available breast milk.

  • If you’ve been breastfeeding frequently and your breasts feel empty, all this means is that your baby will be getting a high fat content from the breastfeed. This is good for baby.
  • It’s normal for your breasts to feel less full from about six weeks after delivery (and sometimes later). It doesn’t mean your supply is low or that the breast is empty.

All women have different breasts and different capacities for storing breast milk – so it isn’t helpful to compare what you and your baby are doing with another breastfeeding mother.

Size of breasts is also not a factor with storage capacity.

If you’re worried

If there are concerns about baby’s output (urine and stools), weight gain or feeding responsiveness, or if the latch is still painful and nipples damaged, then your lead maternity carer may recommend you see a lactation consultant.

If milk supply is on the low side there are things you can do to increase amounts.

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